Sports Journalism Blog

By Mitch Friesenborg

Sports Capital Journalism Program

HOUSTON — Michigan made College Football Playoff history Monday night on the way to claiming its first national championship since 1997 and the first outright title since 1948. Wolverine running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards overwhelmed the Washington defense, and the team’s total of 303 rushing yards broke the previous championship game record of 296 set by Ohio State in its win over Oregon in 2015.

In the last 35 postseason games between the two top rated teams, Michigan’s 303-yard night was exceeded only by the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, who ran for 524 yards in their 62-24 victory over Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

Corum, named the Offensive Player of the Game, ran for 134 yards and two championship-clinching fourth-quarter touchdowns. Edwards, who gained 104 on just six carries, scored on touchdown runs of 41 and 46 yards – the second and third-longest scoring runs in title-game history, in the first 12:37.

Edwards was giddy as he talked to reporters after the game, shaking his head in disbelief at the reality of making the history books. “My performance means nothing when it comes to the team’s success,” he said. “I help the team. I don’t care about how I play. I care more about the victory, and I’m happy that I’m able to help the team get the victory, but I care more about winning and getting the victory… They told me that Blake and I had the most rushing yards for a duo in the national championship game. I want my record stickered on my helmet.”

Corum had high praise for Edwards as well. “I was so excited for Donovan because I just felt like he needed that,” Corum said. “He needed it. He’s back. Dono is back. And I don’t know what he’s going to do after this. I hope he just celebrates and doesn’t think about what decision he’s going to make. But I was happy for him. That’s something Donovan, he was praying for. He talked to the media the other day. I listened to the interview. He said he’s working on growing. “He said he went to a therapist and just talking and talking,” Corum said of his friend. “But Donovan, he puts in the work. He’s always there. I love that guy. Don, the Don…[He’s a] trusted agent, known friend for life. That’s my guy. I’m glad I got to share the backfield with Donovan. I wish Donovan nothing but the best, if he ever needed anything, best believe I’d be there for him.”

Edwards’ 41-yard touchdown was the second-longest in the 10 championship games of the 10-season College Football Playoff era, behind a 50-yard score by Derrick Henry of Alabama in 2016.

Running out of the shotgun formation, Edwards advanced as the running lane ahead of him collapsed. Left guard Trevor Keegan plugged the hold as Washington linemen Ulumoo Ale and Voi Tunuufi closed in on Edwards.

He bounced off Keegan, cutting to the left and a sudden opportunity. Washington safety Asa Turner fell on his chest after just missing the tackle, and Edwards took off for the second longest touchdown run in championship game history. At least, for nearly eight minutes.

With less than three minutes left in the first quarter, Michigan lined up in a pistol formation. Three players motioned to the left side of the line: lineman Trente Jones and tight end Max Bredeson from the left and receiver Cornelius Johnson moving in from outside the right, forming a wall and causing confusion among the Washington defense. About to run into a wall of bodies, Edwards cut to the right, and went untouched into the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown.

Despite a resurgence by Washington’s defense that only allowed a field goal and forced three straight punts in the third quarter and the start of the fourth, key penalties by the Husky offense switched the momentum back in the Wolverines’ favor. With ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, Michigan responded with a five play, 71-yard drive ending with a 12-yard Corum touchdown for a 27-13 lead with 7:09 to play. They would never give the momentum back.

“We started fast,” Corum said. “They slowed us up a little bit. But when we needed to start fast again, we started fast. They had us for a little bit. We knew they were going to get theirs.”